The Indiana Inspector General's office this week concluded Gov. Eric Holcomb did not violate state ethics laws related to free air travel to two Republican Governors Association meetings paid by the chairman and CEO of Spectacle Entertainment last year.

Spectacle CEO Rod Ratcliff flew Holcomb and his wife, Janet, to RGA-hosted meetings in Aspen, Colorado, and Scottsdale, Arizona, in July and November 2018.

The latter flight came the day before Ratcliff announced plans to acquire the Majestic Star casinos. Additionally, Ratcliff and his companies contributed more than half a million dollars in 2018 to the RGA.

Ratcliff, former CEO of Centaur Gaming, and Terre Haute businessman Greg Gibson are the leading partners of Spectacle, which formed in early March 2018.

The flights occurred while Ratcliff was seeking a change in state law to move two Gary casinos, including one to Terre Haute. The Indiana General Assembly approved the measure in April with Holcomb singing it into law May 8.

The RGA has maintained the flights — one at $21,486 and a second at $33,961 — were considered an in-kind donation to the RGA, rather than to Holcomb.

In an investigative report issued Aug. 5, the Inspector General's office stated it received a complaint April 12 alleging the governor and his wife violated state ethics code by accepting free flights and not reporting it on his 2018 financial disclosure statement. The governor is required to list any gifts worth at least $100 for any entity with whom he has a business relationship.

The complaint also raised concerns the flight included "and apparently required, uninterrupted access to the governor by those seeking to lobby the state for changes in Indiana's gaming laws."

However, the inspector general's report cleared Holcomb, stating a gift rule "does not apply to state officers, such as the governor or their family members; therefore the (Inspector General's office) did not investigate the complaint under the gift rule."

The Inspector General did investigate criminal code violations such as conflicts of interest rules and confidentiality rules, which do apply to state officers. "However, none of these rules, with the exception of the financial disclosure statement, applied to the allegations" in the complaint. "For example, none of the code's rules or criminal statues prohibit a lobbying group or any other type of group from having 'uninterrupted access' to a publicly elected official," the Inspector General's report states.

Additionally, the report states the Inspector General received information and documentation from the RGA; Office of Indiana Governor; and Eric Holcomb for Indiana, Team Holcomb and Indiana Republican Party. The RGA, according to the report, states it holds quarterly meetings for donors to discuss current events and the political environment.

The RGA, according to the report, commonly helps "facilitate travel arrangements for their governors to attend RGA events, whether by private aircraft, charter flight, commercial flight or a combination of those modes of travel." The RGA reported the flights were donated by Spectacle Entertainment and Centaur Gaming to the RGA as an in-kind contribution.

"Although it is likely that the governor's attendance at the RGA meetings, and therefore the flights, had some benefit to the governor and or first lady, the OIG found no evidence to dispute the claim that the flights primarily benefitted the RGA," the report states.

The report states there is no evidence that the governor's office worked directly with Spectacle Entertainment to arrange the flights, therefore the flights would be considered at gift from the RGA.

"Moreover, according to the RGA's IRS filings, Spectacle and Centaur provided the flights to the RGA as in-kind contributions," the report states.

The report states the RGA does not have a business relationship — citing the RGA does not have a financial interest in a contract or purchase with the governor's office, including receiving any membership fees, and the RGA does not receive any licenses or permits from the state. Additionally, the RGA is not registered as an executive branch lobbyist with the state, so the flights did not have to be reported on a financial disclosure.

“From the beginning, and throughout this process, we have been fully transparent in our responses to media inquiries, the Indiana Election Division and the Inspector General because there was, and is, nothing to hide," Kyle Hupfer, campaign manager and treasurer for Holcomb, said in a written statement.

"The Governor and First Lady’s travel was arranged for by the Republican Governors Association and the travel benefited the Republican Governors Association. The Inspector General’s report confirms this fact — the same fact we have repeated time and time again.”

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.